Supporters of Sholom Rubashkin have launched print and video advertisements that criticize the U.S. government’s prosecution of the ousted meat plant executive and seek money for his legal defense.
The video features Roza Weiss, the oldest of Rubashkin’s 10 children, who lives with her husband in New York. Weiss tells viewers that Rubashkin will owe his lawyers more than $500,000 in legal fees between September and the end of the trial.
“I grew up in a home where the doors were always open,” she says in the video. “Yidden (Jews) from all walks of life came, and no one was ever turned away. It was as if there was a message that would circulate around the world that said, ‘Go to Rubashkin. He’ll help you.’ ”
The video shows Rubashkin, 49, walking into a Cedar Rapids courthouse after his arrest and zooms in on his handcuffs. Another photo captures him on a couch, smiling, his arms wrapped around two children.
Weiss said she has spent the last year collecting money for her father’s defense. She said the ordeal has been “a very trying, emotional experience,” but expressed confidence that God will help them.
The video then fades to black with an address to send money and the words “PLEASE SAVE OUR FAMILY!”
Their efforts come less than two weeks before Rubashkin, a former vice president at Agriprocessors Inc., stands trial on 91 fraud, money laundering and livestock charges in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Rubashkin was arrested five months after federal agents raided his kosher meat plant and detained 389 illegal immigrants. A grand jury indicted him on 163 charges that include bank, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and harboring illegal immigrants. He has pleaded not guilty.
Supporters this week also bought a half-page ad in The Des Moines Register, with a headline that reads, “IS THIS JUSTICE?”
The ad, bought by the Brooklyn-based “Friends of Sholom Rubashkin,” alleges that the government has pursued criminal charges against Rubashkin but not other plants that hired illegal workers.
It concludes: “How can we expect the children of today and tomorrow to respect the American Criminal Justice System with such injustices and imbalances being shown here??”
A search for “Friends of Sholom Rubashkin” led to Rite Care Medical Products, whose vice president is Levi Balkany. Balkany is the grandson of Agriprocessors founder Abraham Aaron Rubashkin.
The ad prompted a courtroom argument this week in Cedar Rapids. Prosecutors expressed concern about the ad because of its ties to Brooklyn, home of the committee that is paying Rubashkin’s legal bills. Defense lawyers denied any connection.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade, who moved the trial to South Dakota because of intense publicity, said she was “going to hit the roof” if the ad appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus leader newspaper, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
A librarian at the Gannett-owned Argus Leader said no such ad had appeared in the newspaper.
Such ads may help generate public sympathy for Rubashkin but will not likely help his legal case, said Erin Wilgenbusch, a lecturer at Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism.
“What I concluded from the ad was they’re trying to show there are illegal immigrants all over the United States,” Wilgenbusch said. “They’re saying, ‘Why are we being picked on? Why are we being treated to machine guns and dogs?’ ”